March 16, 2009
Leaf from a Gradual: Initial U depicting St. Katharine, November 25
Milan, Italy, 1395
Parchment with ink, paint, and gold
Illuminator (Artist): Tomasino da Vimercate
This initial begins the Introit for the Mass of the feast of St. Katharine of Alexandria (Nov. 25), “Vox de celis Katherine reditur veni sponsa gloriosa…” (The voice came back from heaven, ‘Come glorious bride’). Until his identity was determined by documentary evidence, the illuminator Tomasino da Vimercate was previously known as the anonymous Master of the Modena Hours after his most characteristic work in a book of hours now in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena, Italy. Tomasino was active in Milan where he worked for ecclesiastical and lay patrons from ca. 1390 to 1415.
St. Katharine is shown wearing fashionable robes in the style of the fourteenth century, according to the date of the leaf. The wheel is the most common attribute to Katharine: her tormenters attempted to use a breaking wheel to break all the bones in her body and they were foiled in this exercise. In her hand she holds a palm for her martyrdom; the crown on her head is a martyr’s crown. Katharine is the patron saint of all trades involving wheels, as well as education, libraries, and learning.
Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 72:8